In this article, we cover:
- Key steps when switching MFT providers
- Common reasons for switching MFT providers
- The best time to start researching solutions
- 10 questions to ask potential MFT providers
So your company is looking to switch managed file transfer (MFT) providers. Maybe your current vendor has not delivered on the capabilities it promised or the technology is restricting your revenue growth. Whatever the reason, there are numerous file transfer solutions on the market that may help your company reach its business goals.
While there are a lot of file transfer solutions on the market, looking for a new MFT provider does not have to be a daunting task. With the right preparation, researching and selecting the best MFT becomes a much easier process. One of the first things to ensure a successful MFT provider switch is to understand some of the key steps that need to happen.
Key Steps When Switching MFT Providers
Allotting adequate time to complete each of the following phases is crucial. Some of the major steps a company must address when switching MFT providers include:
● Determining the budget
● Deciding what features and services it wants/needs from a new MFT provider
● Researching and creating a list of potential MFT providers
● Vetting potential MFT providers
● Shortlisting potential MFT providers
● Selecting an MFT provider
● Negotiating contract details and terms
● Implementing the technology
● Learning the technology
● Deploying the technology
These are just some of the steps companies need to take when looking for a new file transfer solution. The more time a company has to focus on each phase, the more likely it will pick the best solution for its needs. The process will also be less stressful since the switch will not be as urgent.
Common Reasons for Switching MFT Providers
There are a variety of reasons why a company may want to search for a new file transfer solution. We explore these key aspects in greater depth below so your business can thoroughly plan, evaluate potential vendors, and implement new MFT technology—in order to help your company meet its business goals.
Your Contract Ending
When implementing file transfer services, it is standard procedure for businesses to sign a contract with their MFT provider. The contract will outline important information regarding the agreement, including the length of time the company will pay the MFT provider for file transfer solutions.
When a contract is reaching the end of its term, it is common for businesses to review their experience with the vendor to determine if they should re-sign. If the company reviews its experience and is not happy with the level of service it is receiving, searching for a new solution is the obvious solution.
The best time to start researching a new solution is a few months before the current contract is up. This proactive approach will ensure the company does not end up scrambling to find a solution at the last minute. Waiting until a few weeks before the contract is up will likely be too late and will result in one of the below scenarios.
1. Resigning with Current MFT Vendor
Only allotting a few weeks to find a new MFT provider is not a lot of time, as there are numerous factors and hurdles to consider, including the key steps we outlined above. Therefore, companies may end up resigning with the same vendor they are currently unhappy with solely because they did not set aside enough time to find a better solution.
2. Going MFT-Less
A fraught but very real scenario is having to operate without any MFT services. If a company decides they do not want to re-sign with its current provider, the organization will need to find a different solution. However, if the company is not able to find a replacement solution before the contract expires and the business does not want to re-sign with its current provider, they will be without MFT technology.
There is also the possibility that a company found an alternate MFT vendor but the new solution will not be ready for deployment by the time the current contract expires. This will result in a period of time where the company will not have MFT services until the new solution is ready for deployment.
3. Messy Implementation Process
Waiting until the last minute for most projects leads to messy situations. The same goes for switching MFT vendors. A company may find a new vendor to supply file transfer services, but if there is not enough time for proper implementation and deployment, the process can quickly become disorganized. This can lead to skipping implementation steps, mistakes, increased costs, lack of testing, rushed training, and more—all leading to an inferior implementation that is riddled with errors.
4. Selecting the Wrong MFT Provider
If there is not enough time to conduct proper research on alternative file transfer solutions, a company will likely select the wrong MFT provider for its needs. This is because the company does not have enough time to fully assess what it requires from its next MFT provider, research potential vendors, interview them, analyze its options, etc. Thus, leading to the company choosing an MFT provider simply because the vendor can deploy the technology in time, not because the technology best suits the company’s needs.
Oftentimes companies must change MFT providers due to changes in their trading partners’ protocol requirements. This is because trading partners will occasionally change their protocol requirements and companies have to accommodate these new standards. If a company’s current MFT provider does not support the protocols that their customers demand, issues arise, and can often be costly. Either the company has to switch MFT providers or they have to cease doing business with their customers because they cannot support the transfers.
Additionally, companies may garner new business that requires a different set of protocols than their current MFT provider supports. Companies have to switch MFT providers in this scenario too if they would like to conduct business with a new customer. If they do not want to switch MFT providers then the company will have to decline the business opportunity. Some of the most common protocols include:
Companies that are dissatisfied with the level of service they are receiving are likely to switch MFT providers. Service dissatisfaction can be the result of various situations, such as:
● Unresponsive or poor customer service
● Product fails to meet expectations
● Lack of features and capabilities
● Increased costs
The Best Time to Start Researching Solutions
The best time to start researching alternative file transfer solutions comes down to three main scenarios:
● MFT provider cannot deliver on platform capabilities
● Services are restricting revenue growth
● Price increases
This is because all three scenarios impact a company’s bottom line. When a service begins affecting how much money a company earns, it is time to search for alternative options.
MFT Provider Cannot Deliver on Platform Capabilities
We have all been in a situation where we have bought a product or service, only to realize afterward it is not exactly how it was advertised. The same applies to MFT services. There are countless reasons why an MFT provider is not delivering on expectations, such as:
● Unresponsive customer service
● Lack of protocol support
● Inconsistent system upgrades
● Poor visibility
● Security issues
These reasons can greatly hinder a company's operations and performance, which in turn can be detrimental to customer relationships.
Services are Restricting Revenue Growth
Companies are in the business of making money. So when an aspect of their business starts limiting revenue, something needs to change. File transfer services can restrict revenue growth in a multitude of ways, including:
● Long and complex new partner onboarding
● Difficulty navigating/understanding the platform
● System downtime
● Lack of protocol support
● File transfers take too long
● Inability to send large files
● Missed SLAs
These scenarios may not happen at the beginning of the deployment, rather they may start cropping up slowly over time. Therefore, companies may not recognize the severity of their impact until a significant amount of damage has transpired.
When costs continue to increase and the value of the product remains the same, switching providers may be a worthwhile project. Cost increases can come from various locations, not just from the product sticker price. Cost increases can stem from:
● Overall MFT platform price increase
● Managed-services price increase
● SLA breaches resulting in fees and lost business
● On-premise hardware maintenance
● Security attacks
These are only a few of the ways costs can continue to creep up and chip away at a company's income. It is important to continually monitor all the costs and associated fees of MFT providers, as the price can quickly balloon without customers ever realizing it.
10 Questions to Ask Potential MFT Providers
Researching potential MFT providers is an excellent and necessary step when looking to switch providers—whether the research is done through asking colleagues and industry peers, searching the internet, viewing customer reviews, and/or reading trade publications. The next phase after research is talking with MFT providers to better understand the specifics of their products and services. Coming prepared to these meetings with a list of questions helps guide conversations and ensures that all the most important questions are asked, as it is easy to forget questions in the moment.
Here are 10 of the most important questions to ask potential MFT providers during discovery sessions, demos, etc.:
1. Can your MFT technology run on my current operating system?
This is a great first question since many vendors only support a handful of operating systems, with some only supporting one. Leading MFT vendors support all the main operating systems, including Windows, UNIX, Linux, IBM iSeries, and more. If the vendor does not support a company’s operating system, the conversation may be over relatively quickly.
2. Do you offer high availability?
High availability refers to 24/7 access to the MFT platform and its data. Downtime not only disrupts a business, but it will also disrupt their trading partners' and customers’ businesses. A high-availability setup utilizes at least two nodes that can handle requests simultaneously. Therefore, if one node fails, the other node(s) can maintain business continuity
3. Will it Scale?
As companies grow and sometimes constrict, they need a platform that can adapt to their evolving size and needs. Otherwise, a company would have to routinely switch MFT providers as they grow larger and larger. Tasks such as onboarding new trading partners, creating maps, and integration applications should take days or weeks, not months.
4. What is your API story?
API integrations are growing enormously in popularity and should no longer be a ‘nice-to-have’ feature. Modern MFT vendors must be able to publish APIs to extend their capabilities to build custom integrations, as well as consume APIs to integrate the enterprise service bus (ESB) and essential applications.
5. What kind of support and services are offered?
Having a solid product is great but it is not very helpful without adequate support and services. Companies should look for vendors that offer flexible, affordable support from a highly skilled team that understands the solution from all angles.
It is reassuring to know that a professional services team can jump in and help with the more complex aspects of solution deployment. Vendors should allow customers to choose the level of assistance they want, whether that is high-level guidance, end-to-end implementation, data mapping, or migration help.
6. What kind of visibility do I get?
Data and insight into processes help companies thrive. Dashboards and monitoring for all system, application, and people-centric file transfers must be available from a single source of integrated truth, allowing users to view all business data exchanges. This enables users to better understand their business and quickly identify issues while providing a central hub of accurate, real-time data.
7. What support do you offer SLAs and KPIs?
Maintaining positive relationships with customers and trading partners is essential for retaining businesses and gaining new business. That is why excellent SLA and KPI support is essential. SLAs and KPIs are mutually agreed-upon requirements that measure how your business performs in relation to each particular party.
MFT software should enable the timely, reliable flow of your business file transfers to meet trading deadlines, efficiency goals, and reconciliation and conflict resolution scenarios mandated by SLAs and KPIs. Strong MFT functionality helps your company avoid penalties, chargebacks, and, perhaps worse, reputational damage due to poor performance.
8. How fast can I onboard partners and achieve a faster time to revenue?
One of the main reasons businesses leave vendors for a new solution is due to slow onboarding and connecting times. New revenue is driven by a deep protocol stack, an intuitive user interface, and citizen integrator capabilities that agilely unlock business value. Ask potential vendors for metrics (if available) and customer references on how easy it is to onboard new partners. A vendor can promise quick connectivity, but a vendor’s customers can verify if that promise holds true.
9. Do I need to pay extra to use different communications protocols to support a wide variety of trading partners?
The answer should always be no. Protocol flexibility becomes increasingly important as your network of trading partners and customers grows. Saying yes to new business should not cost additional money. A modern MFT vendor supports a deep stack of protocols – beyond AS2, FTPs, and HTTPs – so companies can quickly connect to any new trading partner.
Furthermore, modern MFT solutions are built to interface with various endpoints, and an increasing number of MFT vendors offer interfaces to popular cloud storage sites. Supporting a wide variety of protocols also makes an organization easier to do business with, which customers appreciate.
10. Does this solution offer a large file transfer protocol to manage increasing file sizes?
The volume of files continues to increase in the current era of digital transformation, as well as the individual file sizes within those flows. High-speed file transfer is no longer an option, it is essential. Large files bog down networks and slow business operations. Ask the vendor directly, “Will I need to continue to copy these massive files to a hard drive and ship it overnight, or can you simplify my life in the form of an accelerated digital file transfer protocol?” The answer might surprise you.
For a complete list of 20 questions that your company should ask potential MFT vendors, check out our white paper here.
Common reasons that companies switch MFT providers include the current contract will be terminated soon, the company requires an unsupported protocol, and/or they are dissatisfied with the level of service
Before researching MFT vendors, be sure to create a list of non-negotiables you need with your next solution
Come prepared to potential MFT vendor meetings with a list of questions
Allotting ample time to outline goals, research and meet with MFT providers, and deploy the new MFT solution will help ensure a smooth and successful migration process
It is likely time to switch MFT providers if your current vendor cannot deliver on platform capabilities, their services are restricting your revenue growth, and there are occasional price increases